School district always focused on ‘being better’


HUNTINGBURG — The staff of Southwest Dubois Schools is focused on “being better” in the coming school year.

In his annual State of the Schools address this morning, Superintendent Tim LaGrange talked about everything the school board and staff are doing to make the upcoming school year better than the last.

There’s a lot going on, as the summer has brought new staff hires, lots of professional development opportunities for staff and conversations about future maintenance of school facilities.

As schools across the state feel the pinch of Indiana’s teacher shortage, LaGrange said he’s proud of the staff members his corporation has been able to add to the roster. During the summer, the board has approved several new hires, including additional English language learners instructors at both Southridge High School and Huntingburg Elementary to better serve the school’s large Spanish-speaking population and a handful of new teachers.

“We’re all only as good as the talent we surround ourselves with,” LaGrange said. “We feel like we’ve hit some home runs during the hiring season.”

LaGrange described the 2018-19 school year as a “tremendous year of growth,” while noting that staff is still looking for ways to improve. He talked about the many professional development activities corporation teachers are attending over the summer.

Several are attending a manufacturing boot camp to learn to better bridge the gap between education and the workforce; two are attending training to offer Project Lead the Way classes in computer science and biomedical science at the high school; and Susan Wagner, the agriculture teacher, won a grant for professional development in Alaska.

Many other teachers are attending one- or two-day workshops locally, as well. Of the 103 teachers the school employes, LaGrange estimated 80% are doing some kind of professional development.

“Our buildings were full yesterday, and they’re full today of teachers trying to sharpen the saw,” he said.

The corporation is also working to improve academics across grade levels in regard to college and career readiness and technology for the students, and part of that effort involves working to become a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — certified school corporation.

Melissa Boeglin, director of curriculum, spent the past year working with staff to focus on teaching fundamentals to improve pacing and alignment in the curriculum across the corporation.

“Teaching is part art, part science,” LaGrange said. “We’re constantly trying to learn about the scientific part of it and improve ourselves.”

LaGrange also pointed out that Southwest Dubois athletes played strong seasons again in the 2018-19 school year, bringing home a regional trophy in football, winning the softball and wrestling sectional and winning baseball state runner-up. The marching band also just missed a trip to the state competition.

“We don’t ever want to get tired or bored of winning, and we don’t ever want to take it for granted,” he said. “We’re proud of our kids, we’re proud of our athletes, we’re proud of our coaches.”

The 2019-20 season should be just as strong, LaGrange said, even with several changes to the coaching staff ahead of the upcoming school year.

Lastly, LaGrange addressed facilities maintenance needs around the corporation. Last school year, the school board hired Performance Services of Indianapolis to conduct a professional assessment of all the buildings. That assessment showed issues with the roof and foundation at Maple Park, where corporation office is located.

“Some decisions are going to have to be made in the near future with regard to that,” he said.

The corporation will also be looking at how to make safer entrances at Huntingburg and Holland elementaries and Southridge Middle School. The middle school is also the next building in line for major maintenance touch-ups.

The plan is to develop a strategic plan for the school’s facilities that can guide decisions for the next five years or more.

In closing, LaGrange thanked the students and staff for their work and effort in 2018-19, and for the effort they’re making to make 2019-20 even better.

“We’re committed to being better in [20]19-20 than we were in [20]18-19,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity that we have to impact kids. Our motto is ‘Every student, every day,’ and we want those to be more than just words on paper.”

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